Tipping the Scales in Favor of Lumbar Spinal Surgery
More and more adults over 65 are having lumbar spine surgery. And more of these patients are overweight than ever before. Research shows that obesity is directly linked to quality of life in older patients. Does being obese affect the results of this surgery? Doctors in Israel reviewed 298 cases to find out.

Men and women older than 65 years were included. All had a decompressive laminectomy, discectomy, or both. Laminectomy is the removal of a piece of bone from the vertebra. This takes pressure off (decompresses) the disc or nerve root. Discectomy is the removal of the disc. Surgery was done when patients were in severe pain or unable to do daily activities.

Here's what the researchers found:

  • Obese patients were most often younger women.
  • Obese patients had more complications after surgery.
  • Patients with a higher body mass index (BMI)--a measure of body fat based on height and weight--were more likely to be unhappy with the results of the operation.

    The authors conclude that satisfaction is important in spinal surgery. Two-thirds of the patients in this study were "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with the results of surgery. The authors suggest that a high BMI shouldn't be used to keep older patients from having spinal surgery. Improved function and less pain are possible, even for the obese patient.
    R. Gepstein, MD, et al. Does Obesity Affect the Results of Lumbar Decompressive Spinal Surgery in the Elderly? In Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. September 2004. Vol. 426. Pp. 138-144.